Q: First, welcome back to Mandarin NewsLine after your medical absence last month.

A: I want to thank my family, friends and all the people who wished me well throughout my lung transplant surgery. Thank you for the wonderful gifts, bouquets, cards and prayers; they have meant so much to Carol and me during this healing process. I am glad to be back at work and am excited for the year to come. 

Q: What is the City Council working on at this time (as of interview date of Sept. 17)?
A: Business as usual. The council, with the help of the Finance Committee, will have passed on Sept. 22 a balanced budget for the FY 2020 – 2021 Budget in the amount of $2,961,370,591. This is an increase of 8 percent with no new positions. The Special Committee on Social Justice and Community Investment has been regularly prioritizing education, health, infrastructure and law enforcement needs of the urban core, while not being remiss about the infrastructure needs of all residents of Duval County. 

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Q: Can you give us an update on the upcoming Election as well as the half-cent sales tax, which will be on Duval County voters’ ballots?
A: We will all be going to the polls to vote on Nov. 3 and the Half-Cent Tax Referendum (“School Capital Outlay Sales Surtax to Improve Safety and the Learning Environment”) will be on the ballot. This half-cent tax will do so much to upgrade our aging schools through repairs and modernization, to keep schools safe and to continue to promote a conducive learning environment, as well as to improve technology. Some of our schools are 50 or more years older and are in desperate need of repair. I know the importance of infrastructure needs throughout the city and our school buildings need to be safe. 

Speaking of voting, our Supervisor of Elections has an abundance of information on the duvalelections.com website to find out about Early Voting, how to Vote By Mail, register to vote, and to vote on Election Day. The deadline to register to vote or update voter information is Oct. 5. Early Voting will be held Oct. 19 – Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.; refer to duvalelections.com for locations and wait times. 

Q: What is the latest news on Mandarin area parks and recreational facilities?
A: I want to personally recognize the Parks and Recreation Department for their efforts for always doing a wonderful job in our city. It has been noticed by me and many citizens how awesome our facilities truly are and we are so grateful that our families have wonderful parks and playgrounds to enjoy. Here are some updates:

County Dock: The project is complete and open to the public.

Mandarin Park: Design of a new kayak launch and floating docks at Mandarin Park has been completed.The kayak launch will be ADA compliant and will serve as a tool to further activate our waterways. The Mandarin restroom renovation project is complete.

Mandarin Dog Park: This project is still in the early stages; however we are developing a plan for an off leash dog park in Mandarin. The city has purchased the land and will be proceeding with planning of the recreational amenity.

Mandarin Senior Center: The expansion project is complete. The center is currently being utilized as a COVID-19 testing site. 

Mandarin South Library: The project to create an outside learning area and children’s playground behind the Mandarin South Library is in the planning stages at this point and a schedule is being developed. The close proximity to the library allows for a creative space to be developed while encouraging outdoor learning and physical activity.  

Q: Are there any noteworthy Parks and Recreation Department updates for facilities outside of Mandarin?
A: Yes. Here are a few Duval County updates that might be of interest to Mandarin residents:
Friendship Fountain: Design is underway to renovate Friendship Fountain creating an audio/visual show experience that will attract residents and visitors to the downtown area. Construction is estimated to begin late 2020/early 2021.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park: Improvements are underway to renovate the restroom facilities as well as create a new water park area for families to enjoy. The splash pad is in the final phase of design and will be complete by summer 2021. The campground restrooms are complete and Dolphin Plaza renovations are underway. 

River and Post Dock: The dock across from River and Post in Riverside should start in the spring of 2021 and be completed by Summer 2021.

Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?

A: They can email me at THazouri@coj.net or call (904) 255-5217.

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